Jakarta Approves Moratorium on Primary Forest Clearing

Source : ICTSD – International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development
May 30, 2011

The president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on 19 May signed into law a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear primary forests throughout the country. The moratorium is a portion of a US$1 billion deal with Norway to stop deforestation and forest degradation in the region in hopes of cutting emissions, slowing the expansion of plantations, and fighting climate change.

The moratorium halts all new permits for logging and primary forest and peatland conversion. While industries such as timber, mining, and palm oil initially argued that the moratorium would negatively impact production, environmental groups contend that the approved measures do not go far enough and allow enormous loopholes for business.

“This is a bitter disappointment,” Paul Winn of Greenpeace Australia-Pacific told Reuters. “It will do little to protect Indonesia’s forests and peatlands.”

The president’s signature on the moratorium was due on 1 January, but the deadline passed leaving uncertainty as to when the next stage of the deal would move forward (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 24 January 2011). Reportedly, internal disputes within government ministries regarding the extent of the protection are to blame for the delay. Concessions – such as the exemption permits already granted by the forestry ministry – were amassed in the past 5 months reportedly due to extensive lobbying by the US$30 billion global palm oil sector and other key industries.

“I don’t think (the moratorium) for us makes any difference because we have quite a lot of land bank,” Sebastian Sharp, head of investor relations at Jakarta-listed BW Plantation told Reuters. “Our land bank is about 98,000 hectares.  It all has permits.”

Government figures estimate that 64 million hectares of primary forest and peatland will be shielded until 31 December 2012.  However, 35 million hectares of that were already under protection. And according to Greenpeace Southeast Asia, 40 million hectares of Indonesian forest remain open for deforestation because the decree only protectss primary forests instead of all natural forests as called for in the letter of intent signed with Norway in 2010.

“The bottom line here is that the government is appearing to inflate the impact the decree will actually have,” wrote Ahmad Maryudi, executive director of the Institute for Forest Policy and Environmental Studies in an op-ed in the Jakarta Globe.

While the moratorium has been the subject of criticism by many, it marks a change in Indonesian policy towards forest and peatland conservation. It also forces the fast growing palm industry to increase productivity and yields per hectare.

“It’s a stepping stone toward fixing long-standing problems of land conflict, forest governance and other issues,” said Dharsono Hartono, whose firm is developing a project to protect a large area of carbon-rich peat swamp forest in Indonesian Borneo.

ICTSD Reporting; “Indonesia Finally Signs Forest Clearing Moratorium,” REUTERS, 20 May 2011; “Indonesia’s moratorium disappoints environmentalists,” MONGABAY, 20 May 2011; “Analysis: Land banks buffer Indonesian palm oil from forest ban”, REUTERS, 25 May 2011.

Link : http://ictsd.org/i/news/biores/107625/

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